Clover and I attended our first NW2 trial at the end of March 2022. Thanks to our early successes in canine nosework, we had high hopes for getting this new NW title on the first try as well. Alas, I botched one of the first two searches of the day (mostly because of how trauma from the November dog attack has affected my heart, so I wasn't feeling well). But, we rallied the entire rest of the day -- with Clover getting 4 of the 5 searches, 7 of the 8 hides, so still an incredible success for us. Check out the videos of our searches and other details on how the day went and what I learned from our failure and our successes. We ranked 18th overall (of like 45 dogs) for the day.
We don't try to be fast, though. I'm really only looking for confident / clear / happy NW searches from Clover.
Luck of the Draw in NW Competitions
We seem to have a habit of being randomly chosen as team number one or being the first in the second part of the list when it gets split into two so that the search day goes faster, with more than one search happening at the same time.
So, there we were as team number one again, which honestly is fine. It's nice just to go and get those initial nerves out the way.
On this trial day, though, that meant doing 2 of the searches back to back. We went straight from a tough container search (that a lot of teams did NOT get) into the very next room to do the first interior search of the day.
Because of the trauma-induced heart issues, I was suffering from a VERY high heartrate, which made it hard to breathe. Despite all my best efforts, I had no luck getting my heartrate down throughout the day, and I just didn't ground myself enough emotionally between the 2 searches, and I rushed the call on the interior search. Totally my fault. Clover was amazing.
So, let's look at this container search, which honestly felt like it took FOREVER and like I used up ALL of my patience. (ha ha) I didn't realize at the time how close we were to the time limit, and we didn't get a time warning, which is probably fine. It likely wouldn't have helped.
I see now that Clover both looked at one of the hot boxes and even shook next to it, which can be a sign that she is in a big area of odor, but she kept moving, so I didn't call it right away.
You'll also see me point at one of the distraction boxes because she looks at me, which can be part of her odor alert, but she rechecks the box when I point at it and moves on, so I did NOT call it. Yay for me!!!
NW Container Search, NW2 Trial
- 2 hides
- 2 food distractions
- 2 1/2 minute time limit
At this level, you have to say "Finish" to stop the clock, which I'm not yet used to, so my finish calls were slow or needed reminders.
NW Interior Search #1
Again, we literally went from the container room into the very next room to do our first interior search of the day. The NW2 level requires 5 successful searches in a single day, which means you do double of at least one type of search environment. In this case, the certifying official chose to run 2 different interior searches.
This one was a threshold hide, meaning it was VERY close to the start line on the single chair nearby. I maybe should have known that because you'll hear me comment that Clover's nose was already "bouncing" before we started. So, in the future, maybe I should cue her to really check the threshold area if/when I see her nose moving like that, OR be VERY sure that she rechecks the area later.
We definitely need to do more training threshold searches. We've done a lot of them, but not in a while.
I see now that she checked the correct chair but kept moving. I don't remember that registering at the time, but honestly, I could barely breathe because of what was happening with my heart, so the fact that I'm upright at all is kind of a miracle.
I think what happened was that the warm window (and maybe airflow) pushed the scent cone, as it's called even though it's more like a billowing plume, toward the window.
I misread the tip of her head under the table, and I rushed the call. If I had waited and seen her move on, I suspect that Clover would have worked her way back to the chair after looping through the room.
100% my fault.
- 1 hide
- 2 1/2 minute time limit
** If any of you have rituals you use between back-to-back searches to reset / ground yourself, I would love to hear about it. I definitely need to come up with something that works for me. (Hoping the heart stuff resolves before we compete again.)
After getting our first-ever No in competition, it threw me for a bit. So much so that I missed our exit out of the facility and ended up overlapping with dogs coming into search. Bad me. I guess I also need a ritual for that too.
Clover had no idea anything weird had happened, but she did struggle leaving the building because of a set of stairs that had a big window landing. She is afraid of heights and really struggled to make the turn from the landing down to another set of stairs. Poor baby. I definitely need a plan for if our exit route is an issue for her.
BUT, I went back to the car and wrote down all the positive things that happened and really used all my Mental Mastery skills to rally my heart and mind for the rest of the days searches.
I found out later that we were one of only 2 teams NOT to get this interior search, which is mortifying, but what are you going to do? I messed up.
I never could get my heartrate to settle down, even with all the tips and tricks my 2 trauma therapists have taught me, so it was a real challenge to have my heartrate already so high and then with competition nerves on top of that. I will write about the attack and ongoing fallout on me at some point.
NW Exterior Search, NW2 Trial
The day felt like it went pretty fast, so next up came the one exterior search for the day. Clover did a GREAT job, methodically working the large space with the warm temps and wind affecting how the odor moved. I really appreciated her obvious COB "change of behavior" that indicates she is following odor. That simply means the way she really hooks toward the picnic table.
The judge had to remind me to say FINISH.
- 1 hide
- 2 1/2 minute time limit
Judge wrote "Very nice working K-9. Great Job" on our score sheet!
NW Second Interior Search, NW2 Trial
I worried most about this search in a big interior room after seeing the virtual walk-thrus online before the NW competition, but I need not worry. Clover NAILED IT!
The airflow must have carried odor up toward the stage, the way Clover hustles right up there. It took me a while to realize that my body position was keeping her up on the stage, which was out of play for the search, but once I moved so that she could move away from the stage, she got all 3 hides quickly.
Notice me joking at the end about my lucky socks. St. Patrick's Day is a huge boon for me finding Team Clover gear, including a 4-leaf clover hat, a 4-leaf clover sweatshirt that says "Lucky," and 4-leaf clover socks that also say "Lucky." Clover's registered name is Rocky Mountain Lucky Charm!!
- 3 hides
- 3 minute time limit
Judge wrote "Outstanding work Team Clover" on our score sheet!!
NW Vehicle Search, NW2 Trial
I probably could have called this vehicle search around 50 seconds, but after rushing / blowing an interior call earlier in the day, I waited, and Clover ended up bracketing off the blue car and then wanting to work all 3 cars. So, I let her, and I didn't call it until I felt more confident, especially in the wind.
My online NW instructor teaches a really great way to pattern vehicle searches. I haven't done it since I first taught Clover to search vehicles, but I'm going to repeat that patterning process and see if I can get her searching a bit more methodically again.
But, honestly, she did a great job. She worked the space in the wind, and I didn't call it until I was pretty sure that she was pretty sure she'd found it.
- 1 hide
- 3 cars
- 3 minutes
Here's how things shaped up for the day, with NW search pass rates and such.
Next Try at NW2?
I don't see any options for relatively local NW2 trials anytime soon, so we'll just keep training on our own, with the help of online classes and such, and hope to get another chance at earning the NW2 title sometime in the future.